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As someone who’s always turned to the tabletop for some of the richest and deepest multiplayer gaming experiences, it’s refreshing to see this surge in interest around board games. It’s also nice to see so many of these games coming from individual creators or smaller creative teams, as in my experience it’s usually the independents that yield the deepest, and most satisfying, tabletop games.
Buoyed by the parallel rise of crowdfunding platforms (and an increase in mainstream awareness of them), indies no longer need to fret about pitching their ideas to the major players and pleading for funding; anyone with a killer idea, a suitable work ethic and a passion for creating can test their ideas in that most valuable of bellwethers, the court of public opinion.
This new process and the vibrant communities that have sprung up around have yielded some of the coolest board games in the last few decades, and 2017 promises more of the same. With that in mind, I picked out three upcoming gems that look poised to keep driving this trend of quality and depth.
This War of Mine: The Board Game
At first glance, 2014’s #ThisWarOfMine doesn’t immediately recommend itself to a board game adaptation. The harrowing story of civilians trapped in a shelter in a city devastated by war, the award-winning video game leans heavily on its atmosphere and the unrelenting bleakness of its setting, qualities that don’t translate well to the tabletop.
But with the the trappings of the setting as a secondary concern, the mechanics of survival actually do provide a solid framework for a board game take. Your shelter needs maintenance and expansion, and #ThisWarOfMineTheBoardGame emphasizes the base building dimension of its video game cousin, tasking survivors with constructing beds, tools, water filters, and all the other necessities any community of refugees requires.
When night falls, however, necessity dictates that your band of survivors must brave the dangers of the city to scavenge food and equipment. This is where the board game’s most promising component rears its head — the SCRIPTS system guides players through encounters and dialogue with other survivors, and allows for a unique narrative during each play session.
In the struggle to survive until a cessation of hostilities, terrible decisions will be made and, inevitably, lives sacrificed, and it's in these moments that the board game promises to capture much of the spirit of its video game predecessor.
#DrawingDead is a card game where players assume the role of a saloon patron from the Wild West in order to lie, cheat, and steal their way through a game of stud poker for the highest stakes imaginable: their souls. The characters in this world are doomed to walk the land of both the living and the dead, hoping to win this game in order to buy themselves a restful sleep — six feet under.
In order to win, players will have to play one of the many roles available to them and use the characters' special powers to improve their own hands and stop their opponents'. The game is familiar to those who know only the basics of poker, but robust enough to keep even the most avid gamer invested from start to finish.
Drawing Dead's Kickstarter campaign was funded in November 2016 and will be available in mid-2017. Please visit drawingdeadgame.com and sign up for the mailing list to get all the latest news and deals, including a discounted preorder when available!
Drawing Dead should be sent to the printers in February of 2017 and will be available no later than August.
Tiny Epic Quest
On virtually the opposite end of the thematic spectrum, #TinyEpicQuest is a whimsical, colorful, fast-paced game that can be played in as little as 45 minutes. The product of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (with over $500,000 raised beyond a $15,000 goal), Tiny Epic Quest gives each player a traditional RPG party of three heroes in a fairy tale world threatened by an all-encompassing evil.
With vile monsters to be slain and rare magical treasure to be looted, Tiny Epic Quest shares a lot of tropes with tabletop RPGs, but in a bite-sized boardgame shell. It features a day/night cycle, attractive custom dice, and vivid, beautifully designed game pieces that bring it’s light fantasy world to life.
For players looking for something quick and fun, or geared for younger players, Tiny Epic Quest is an excellent entree, though advanced rules and future content promise to add further depth for more experienced gamers.
Whelps to Wyrms
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for dragons, so the idea of a board game that simulates rearing a young dragon and guiding it to glorious (and deadly) adulthood is squarely in my wheelhouse. #WhelpsToWyrms is a competitive game where players strive to acquire the largest treasure hoard, growing their baby dragonlings to larger and larger size as they gain experience terrorizing the countryside, devouring livestock and razing forts.
Every dragon has its own set of skills to build as they grow, and eventually players will be given control of slayers to harass their opponents, from lowly bandit leaders to the archetypal dragon slayers featured in practically every piece of fantasy art of the last five decades. A simple (and very cool) premise matched with interesting gameplay make Whelps to Wyrms sound like the sort of game I could lose tens of hours playing.